Wests Tigers defeat Manly Sea Eagles 19-18 in Monday Night Football
August 03, 2009 Wests Tigers evoked memories of their run to the 2005 NRL premiership as they kept the 2009 dream alive with a thrilling 19-18 win over reigning premiers Manly at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Tigers surged to their fourth straight win to close to within two points of eighth-placed Newcastle Knights, the home side forced to do it the hard way after withstanding a spirited Sea Eagles comeback after taking an 18-0 lead to the sheds at half-time.
Tigers skipper Robbie Farah looked like he had sealed victory when he slotted over a field goal for a 19-6 lead just after the hour, but Manly and New South Wales Origin backrower Anthony Watmough had other ideas as he steamed over from long range to keep the Sea Eagles in the contest.
When Watmough, who continued his rich vein of form with another stunning display, crashed over for his second five minutes from time, it looked like momentum would carry the Sea Eagles over the line.
Matt Orford then shaved the posts with one field goal attempt and had a second charged down by Todd Payten as the visitors desperately tried to take the game into extra time.
But it was the skipper’s final pass over the sideline which ultimately killed off the premiers’ chances and kept alive the Tigers’ as they attempted to match the eight-game winning streak which propelled them into the 2005 finals.
The Tigers were all over Manly early in the contest, but save for a bizarre decision to take the two points from a fourth minute penalty, were unable to convert their ascendency to the scoreboard.
Manly looked like they had weathered the storm before Benji Marshall turned the course of the match with the first of three magical catches which put the Australia slips cordon to shame, Marshall reeling in a Jamie Lyon kick before outsprinting over-matched chaser George Rose on a 95-metre run to the line.
Tim Moltzen and fullback Shannon Gallant matched Marshall’s slick hands to spark another pair of tries to wingers Beau Ryan and Taniela Tuiaki, the Tigers scoring three tries in the space of nine minutes to stun the Sea Eagles.
Tony Williams finally got the visitors on the board when he turned Tigers defenders into ten pins on a barnstorming 40 metre run 13 minutes after the restart, his wing partner denied five minutes later when David Williams was pushed into touch just before touching down out wide.
Tigers coach Tim Sheens said there was little point looking to the deeds of 2005 for inspiration, claiming the task facing his side was simple - win every game or perish.
“There are still sides well in front of us, we just can’t afford to slip up, they can,” he said.
"The closer you get to it the more pressure builds on us.
“That’s been the problem every year, we haven’t handled the pressure of the last month.”
Marshall, one of the heroes of the 2005 triumph, said there was no comparing the late season surge to the one of four years ago.
“2005 was a long time ago and to tell you the truth, those are memories that I don’t know if we could ever recreate because we were so young,” Marshall said.
“Now we’re much older and we’ve got to be the senior players to take us to another level.”
Manly coach Des Hasler said the top four was still within reach for his side despite the setback, though he admitted the starts would have to improve.
“We might have shown plenty of character to come back in the second half but at the end of the day you just can’t give sides 18 points start,” he said.
Tigers backrower Gareth Ellis said he was hopeful of avoiding a charge after being penalised for a second half trip on Orford.